Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Destiny: Alpha Preview

Destiny: Alpha Preview

Platform: PS4
Released by Bungie

Released last week to much fanfare at the E3 expo, Destiny came like a bolt out of the blue with the Alpha being released to a select few who signed up in time and were lucky enough.

Fortunately, I was one of the ones to spend all of last weekend in the Alpha, and to appreciate what Bungie's got ahead of us for its September release.

And boy, if this is an indication of what lies ahead, sign me up in spades, because this Alpha left me wanting more and more when the weekend was done - and I'm not usually a fan of FPS games. Perhaps, also, though this may count against me, I've never really got into HALO.

Destiny though, looks to be a fully immersive experience, a game that takes you into its world and settles you in without your realising that you're in a different place. That's to say everything seems natural - from the Peter Dinklage voiced AI which drips out part of the history of the planet as you traverse through it to the combat and working with others, it just seems to fire from the very beginning. The Alpha gave you a choice of a story mission, exploration and a few other bits and bobs.

As the game begins, you get to pick your character - male or female - and choose what kind of person you want to be, both in looks and in game play style. Adding markings, eye colours and skin tones are all fun (even if they're obscured in combat by a helmet and also by the fact it's an FPS) but it's the choice of what kind of warrior you want to be that's the most interesting.

From choosing to be a warlock (magic being the main power), titan (guns a blazing) or hunter (speed), the game gives you the chance to decide how your combat will go. I took on Warlock to start off with and was promptly dropped into a warzone in old Russia on Earth, with a mission to head to the Tower and take on the creatures within. Within seconds of being dumped in, there were creatures known as the Fallen to take on with an array of weapons at my disposal - blasting them and their floating robots is relatively easy, but I chose to use the AI to summon a bike (a la Speeder in Return of the Jedi) to run past them all and avoid combat. Which seemed smart at the time, but after getting to the tower and having to fight a floating wizard and his horde of creatures, was a truly dumb move. Killing critters off helps you level up and boost your skill set, all of which was needed when it came to the final showdown, which took forever to complete and had to see me shooting a few of the creatures (known as the Horde) before retreating to power up my guns and get back into it as the forces of darkness take on the forces of the Light.

Combat's easy to get into but levelling up is the best way to go, as it helps you get to take down the Fallen and the rest of them with a bit more ease. Once the story mission's done, you get a chance to head back to the Cosmodrome and explore, giving you the chance to play with other players to take on various mini missions, such as defending oil wells, collecting scrap and recovering parts - one public mission saw me team up with 3 other players to try and defeat another major big bad who was hidden in an area below ground. Needless to say we didn't succeed, but the co-op play was certainly good fun and gives an indication of what could be going on once the game launches later this year and other players join. Though, I do wonder how they'll limit the numbers of Guardians involved in the game to prevent it from simply being a mess of players running around, going beserk. (Points though for the whole waving to others, as well as being able to dance which were activated with the D-pad)

Other elements of the game were in the Tower, the social area where you can head to collect items, ramp your collection up and tool up as well. Sort of like a space market, there was little real interaction, though, once again, if it comes to the whole multi-population, it could in reality turn out to be something a little like Mos Eisley spaceport... We'll see in September.

Graphically, Destiny is completely beautiful, with landscapes giving you the kind of look you'd expect from a great space opera. The level of detail is astonishingly good in the scenery and while you're ploughing around the Alpha, there was never really a lot of time to take it all in - but once in a while, there's time to stop and marvel and take it all in. When you're up in the Tower and peering down into the world below, I got a vague sense of vertigo as I marvelled at the work done around.

The Beta of Destiny is due on July 17th, but all the early signs are that this game is set to be massive - visually, it soars and when it comes to gameplay, it's actually redefined my approach to FPS and their ilk given how easy it is to get into. I personally can't wait for another session on this, so am hanging out to see if the BETA brings more of the multiplayer experience and a further tantalising glimpse of the story.

Based on early impressions, it looks like Destiny could be one of the titles of the year.

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